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How to arrive at a future that's "not shit" - a Southland case study

A talk given to Innov8 Invercargill, March 2016

Nathan Surendran

on 1 April 2016

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Transcript of How to arrive at a future that's "not shit" - a Southland case study

How to arrive at a future that's "not shit" - a Southland case study.

This presentation:
nathan surendran
e: nathan@schema.nz
t: @nathansurendran
li: linkedin.com/in/nathansurendran
f: facebook.com/nathansurendran

Change our Story
What does our current way of thinking say, what assumptions underpin this line of thinking?
A New Story for Southland
What this might look like from a Systems Thinking Perspective?
How could we frame this up?
Here's an example of how this can be framed from the Post Growth Institute's charter :

Prosperity Without Growth
Social and Global Justice
Political and Structural Reorganization
Diversity, Multiplicity, and Cooperation
Creativity in Action
Linear Models of change
The UWEX model is one of the standard models used by development specialists. It's appropriate to simple situations, where there is a definable 'problem' and a simple 'solution'.
Systems Model of Change
A big idea:
'Agrihoods', aka villages...
Production of food close to where people live.
Limited in size to roughly 150 people.
Spaced a day's walk from each other.
Create minimum viable product, market overseas to gauge interest.
Iterate quickly to get to viable model.
Locate in areas away from flood risk.
Models of Change
Linear vs Systems Models
Case Study
What are our stories?
How can we think differently about the future, and what does that imply in terms of choices?
Start with outcome
Grow the population.
Identify Projects
Need 'Jobs', which means increase in GDP
Break it down
To create jobs, we need to grow existing industry or create new industries.
Building a foundation for change
Identifying all of the key stakeholders and getting them involved in the process
Facing current reality
This is where people start to feel uncomfortable, as it is necessary to look at the system as a whole to both understand why it behaves the way it does and what each person's role is in its behavior
Making an explicit choice
The goal is to bring the explicit choice to life through a vision that illuminates what people feel called to or deeply wish to create.
Current: Sacred Money and Markets
Time is money. Money is wealth. Material consumption is the path to happiness. Making money creates wealth, drives consumption to increase happiness, and is the defining purpose of individuals, business, and the economy.
Economic inequality and environmental damage are a regrettable but necessary and unavoidable cost of growing the GDP. GDP growth in turn eliminates poverty, drives technological innovation to free us from our dependence on nature, and brings universal and perpetual prosperity for all.
There is no viable alternative to a profit-driven free market economy.
Future? Sacred Life and Living Earth
We humans are living beings born of and nurtured by a Living Earth. Real wealth is living wealth. Time is life. Money is just a number useful as a medium of exchange in well regulated markets.
Life exists only in community. We humans are creatures of conscience who survive and prosper only as members of a Living Earth community. The prime task of any living community is to maintain the conditions essential to the life of its members. We all do best when we all do well in a world that works for all.
Human institutions are human creations. That which humans create, humans can change.
Environmental sustainability, economic justice, and a living democracy are inseparable. We have all of them, or we have none of them.
What are our solution spaces?
Related to the 3 e's:
A dysfunctional biosphere will make agriculture challenging.
Declining 'net' energy available will drive reductions in GDP.
Failing markets will lead to capital constraints.
What can work in the future?
Idealistic or Realistic?
I don't have all this figured out. But, to paraphrase Einstein: "it's not possible to solve a problem with the same thinking that created it". Consider this an invitation to 21st century thinking for the challenges of this age.
Why it might work:
People under 40 like me, all over the globe, are looking for a place for their families to thrive through the challenges of this century.
They worry about ecological issues, are cynical about secure economic futures, and want meaningful community for their famillies.
Some have that combination of being motivated, financed and capable. They are of the target demographic, with young families.

Southland fits the bill,
they just don't know it yet...
Southland Regional Development Strategy
Find the people
Teams of people have been tasked with looking at discrete projects to create a strategy.
e.g. "population growth is stagnant in the region"
The four stages of change as presented in the book 'Systems Thinking for Social Change'.
A systems problem is viewed as 'we have a predicament, to which we can adapt', rather than a problem with a definitive solution.
e.g. "population growth is stagnant in the region"
Bridging the gap
One of the most important parts of effective Systemic Change is to change the causal relationships in the system to support the new goals. This also requires
helping people change their mental models
, keeping people informed, and continuous monitoring and learning throughout the change (and afterwards).
Systems thinking
A strong message throughout this book is the idea that we are the ones who unintentionally perpetuate the very systems we wish to change. When viewed through the lens of systems thinking, it is easier to see how our actions, while seeming to have positive and direct consequences in the short term, either undermine our efforts to change or create other consequences in the longer term that work against us.

The classic example of this is fixes that backfire (or fail). In this story, we take immediate action that alleviates the symptom of the problem in the short run. In doing so, we undermine our ability to solve the fundamental problem so must keep resorting to fixing the symptom, further undermining our ability to solve the problem.

A common example would be to borrow money to pay the interest on another debt. While this solves your short-term need of servicing the original debt, you now have a larger debt and two interest payments, making it harder for you to pay off the original debt.

Recommended Book
This is actually the reason for this presentation. I feel that if we're to get young people's buy in for the future we're offering them, they have to co-create. They're highly cynical of attempts to market BAU to them...
A side note: I stole the 'not shit' tag line from the youth activist group making a name for itself as the policy voice of Gen Y and Milennials in NZ, Generation Zero.
3 e's - economics, energy, ecology
A Global Ponzi Scheme
Resource Depletion
Planetary Boundaries
3 e's
It is necessary to build a case for the current system, including the payoffs of the current system and the cost to change. This is then compared to the case for the changed system, including its benefits and the costs of not changing.
Solutions (and strategies) are then generated that, as much as possible, meet both short-term and long-term goals (with an emphasis on the long term).
1. People.
The power to envision the future of the community and build its resilience resides with community members, properly informed.
2. Systems thinking.
Systems thinking is essential for understanding the complex, interrelated crises now unfolding and what they mean for our similarly complex communities.
3. Adaptability.

A community that adapts to change is resilient.
But because communities and the challenges we face are dynamic, adaptation is an ongoing process.

4. Transformability.
Some challenges are so big that it’s not possible for the community / economy to simply adapt; fundamental, transformative changes may be necessary.
5. Sustainability.
Community resilience is not sustainable if it serves only us, and only now; it needs to work for other communities, future generations, and the ecosystems on which we all depend.

6. Courage.
As individuals and as a community, we need courage to confront challenging issues and take responsibility for our collective future.
6 foundations to 'Building Community Resilience'
Recognition that there are natural limits to economic, population and consumption growth and points at which further growth produces, overall, negative outcomes.
Acceptance that, globally, we have long surpassed the natural limits of the planet to allow us to sustain further increases to material consumption.
Commitment to restoring, protecting, and prioritizing a healthy ecosystem in order to sustain wellbeing for humans and other species, without requiring further economic growth to do so.
Steal from the future, sell it in the present, and call it GDP
It’s a paradoxical idea, but one way to build resilience, or antifragility, is to keep the vast majority of the business as safe as possible, but then take big risks – ones that may pay off 10-fold or more – with a smaller part of the business [the Southland Regional Economy].
http://nyti.ms/1TdgaDt, http://huff.to/1Tdgceq, http://bit.ly/1TdgdPs
150 Strong: http://amzn.to/1VseOVm
HBR - "Why you need a resilience strategy now."
Find this presentation online:
Southland's Strengths:
• A universal desire for more people and a vibrant local community.
• An ambition to be recognised for what they have and can achieve.
• A willingness to work hard and the other traditional values which are so strong in the south.
• An openness to thinking long-term and avoiding immediate gratification.
• An ability to pull together as a region for common goals.
• An involvement in the creation of the plan so that ownership levels are high.
• An ability to bring together the financial resources to achieve regional goals.
• An incredible optimism.
Further reading: Oil a bad investment: http://bit.ly/1MAFj2k, Energy 'Return on Investment' http://bit.ly/1RdgP6A, Thinking about thinking about energy http://bit.ly/1OnfN6u, Renewables won't support growth: http://bit.ly/1dVOe5l
In 2016, the debt has reached $NZ 115Bn! http://bit.ly/1Vspdk1
Change the Story, Change the Future - David C Korten - excerpt http://bit.ly/1VspUKb
Further reading:
History has knocked very loudly on our door. Will we answer? - World Future Council - http://bit.ly/1VsuCYr
The Simpler Way - an appropriate response to the probable future we face: http://bit.ly/1VsvcFi
5 part series ‘Creating Tomorrow’ by Dr Wayne Cartwright published in ‘Element Magazine’, the NZ Herald supplement: http://bit.ly/1pKHXZx
Full transcript